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posted: 10/19/2012 4:44 AM

'Pocket listing' not a good idea for most sellers

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Home sellers hoping to get the best price need to give their property maximum public exposure, and a "pocket listing" usually won't provide it.

Q. We are getting ready to sell our home. A sales agent who we really like would take our listing and charge a 6-percent commission to put it on the Multiple Listing Service for all the other agents to see, but would charge only 4.5 percent if we gave her a "pocket listing" that would allow her to market the property directly to buyers. The pocket listing would cut about $3,000 dollars off our final sale expenses, and would help to protect our privacy. Are these types of marketing arrangements a good deal for sellers?

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A. Usually not. The best way to ensure snaring the highest possible sales price is to give your property the most public exposure you can, and the only way to do that is to publish the offering on the Multiple Listing Service. The MLS is read religiously by brokers, who then share information about the most appealing homes with their buyers. The MLS also is read online by millions of Internet users every day.

A pocket listing, sometimes called an "exclusive" listing, won't give your home that kind of high-profile exposure. Instead, the agent will keep the listing "in her pocket" -- marketing it primarily to other licensees in her own office, to the limited number of buyers that she may be working with, and perhaps through newspapers, direct mail or over the Internet.

Sure, it would be swell to slash $3,000 off your final marketing costs by paying the lower 4.5 percent commission that the pocket listing would entail. But you'll be left licking your financial wounds if that limited exposure would result in a final sales price that would be just $4,000 less than you would have received by putting the home on the MLS. And more than likely, the difference would be a lot more than $4,000.

There are a number of steps you can take to help protect your privacy even if you put your home on the MLS. For example, you can ask the agent to omit the property's street address and instead use a phrase like "located in a great family-oriented community" and request potential buyers to call the agent for additional information. Also consider asking the agent to pre-qualify each caller for a mortgage before showing the home: It'll help to eliminate nosy neighbors and other lookie-loos from visiting.

You can even ask that only exterior pictures of the home be used in the marketing efforts so viewers can't see the personal possessions you have inside. Of course, you'll also want to keep valuables, financial documents and personal correspondence locked up or hidden away when a potential buyer comes to view the house.

Q. Did President Barack Obama really build a room under the White House that cannot be blown up by a nuclear bomb?

A. No, he didn't build it. But the federal government admits that it's there, tucked about 30 feet below the East Wing of the White House.

It's stocked with food, water, medicine and telecommunications equipment and supposedly could survive a nuclear attack, unless the bomb struck it directly.

The room was constructed by the Roosevelt administration during World War II, a time when our nation feared a nuke attack by China, Japan, Russia and other foes. It is guarded around the clock by military personnel, the State Department and the CIA.

Q. I have to make some minor repairs to my asphalt-shingle roof. I've heard this type of work should be done only on warm, dry days but I really don't know why. Can you help?

A. Sure. I'm glad you're tackling this job now, before the really cold and wet weather sets in.

Asphalt shingles should be replaced or repaired on warm, dry days because the warmer weather makes them more flexible and thus easier to work with. You need to replace the shingles only if they're very old or in really terrible shape: Minor cracks or tears in both asphalt and wood shingles can be sealed simply with roofing cement.

Add some extra galvanized roofing nails to the repaired or replaced shingles and then cover the exposed heads as another layer of protection against inclement weather.

Real estate trivia: The average U.S. home dropped 33.3 percent in value from the market's 2007 peak through the end of last year, according to researchers at tech giant Fiserv Inc. Nevada took the biggest hit, with an average decline of 59.7 percent, followed by Arizona (49.9), Florida (48.4) and California (45.8).

• For the booklet "Straight Talk About Living Trusts," send $4 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to David Myers, P.O. Box 4405, Culver City, CA 90231-4405.

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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